Belfast Telegraph

Advisors working to set asking price for H&W ahead of sell-off

One of the five Stena Line ferries undergoing a refit at Harland and Wolff
One of the five Stena Line ferries undergoing a refit at Harland and Wolff
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A team of business advisors is carrying out a valuation of Belfast's Harland and Wolff ahead of a likely disposal by its parent company this year, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Accountants have been sent in to carry out the work to establish an asking price for Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Ltd, which is to be sold as part of restructuring by Norwegian parent company Fred Olsen Energy.

H&W covers two sites on Queen's Island in east Belfast, including the Belfast Repair Dock, where some ship work is still carried out, including the current refit of some Stena Line ferries.

There is also the main building dock and manufacturing halls, where the Samson and Goliath gantry cranes operate.

The combined area of the sites is nearly 90 acres.

A spokesman said H&W would not be commenting, but the Belfast Telegraph understands the sale process is moving forward as inspectors work to establish an asking price.

The site's evaluation comes after ferry giant Stena Line announced it had started work on a £5m refit of its ferry fleet at H&W.

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Over the course of 10 weeks, five Stena Line vessels will be kept in H&W's dry dock while refurbishment and maintenance is carried out.

Paul Grant, Stena Line trade director, said: "Regular ship refits are an important element in our ship management operation, which helps to maintain our excellent reliability and keeps our Irish Sea fleet to the forefront of the ferry sector.

"We're pleased that we are continuing to work with Harland and Wolff in Belfast to carry out these important upgrades, helping to secure the local maritime skills base in Northern Ireland."

"While Stena Line has already committed a significant investment to introducing three new ships to the Irish Sea, starting in early 2020, it's also important that we continue to improve, develop and invest in our existing fleet of vessels, which is exactly what this contract will do."

H&W chief executive Jonathan Guest added: "Harland and Wolff is delighted to welcome back five of Stena Line's Irish Sea vessels.

"Our working partnership with Stena Line is very important not only to our company but to the local economy through its associated supply chain."

Stena Line runs ferries on routes including Belfast to Liverpool and Heysham, Belfast to Cairnryan, Dublin to Holyhead and Rosslare to Fishguard.

H&W, the former shipbuilder behind the Titanic, has diversified into renewable energy installations since the last ship sailed out of its yard 16 years ago in 2003.

The decline of shipbuilding has also been marked by a steady fall in employee numbers, from as many as 30,000 in the 1930s to around 100 today.

Speaking after the potential sale was first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph last month, former UUP leader and Enterprise Minister Sir Reg Empey said he hoped the site would not be sold to property developers but would be kept for "meaningful industrial uses".

Belfast Telegraph